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The Best, the Honorable Mentions, and the Worst Reads of 2013

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge

I am so glad to have finished my reading challenge of 52 books this year. And indeed, this has been a challenging year in reading and blogging. Blame it on the occasional reading ruts that I have gone through. This does not mean though that I didn’t get to read great books. In fact, there are a number of surprises for this year thanks to the “cheat reads” that I took off my shelf, just so I could reach 52.

On the other hand, quantity should not supersede quality. Yes, I pulled out thin books from my shelf, but these are in the forms of novellas, plays, and poems, forms that I don’t usually read, so it’s not really cheating. As I’ve mentioned, there are surprises.

I’ve prepared nothing fancy this time. No Top 12 (like in 2011), no elimination (like in 2012), just plain rants and raves on the books that I’ve read this year.

The Best

  • Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?; What We Talk About When We Talk About Love; Cathedral; Short Cuts by Raymond Carver – It’s hard to choose among these four, so I’m rolling them into one. Mundane lives of ordinary Americans magnified with such subtlety.
  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda – Love in its many forms. I Have Gone Marking is my favorite in this collection.
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – On being trapped and on being unable to escape. On feeling superior yet living with the inferiors.
  • Mysteries by Knut Hamsun – A man comes to town, causes some controversies, and vanishes like he never was there. He unsettles the people’s peace and steps closer to his own destruction.
  • A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe – A man’s life spirals down when he finds out that there’s something hideously wrong with his baby. He turns into alcohol, sex, violence, and would it be too late to turn him away from death?
  • This Is Water by David Foster Wallace – A primer on how to deal with the daily frustrations in life. After reading, watch the video.
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan – What can the absence of intimacy do to a marriage? How will a frigid woman and an excitable man compromise?
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – A girl’s coming-of-age story intertwined with an old man’s reminiscence. It can also be entitled The History of Loneliness.
  • Small Memories by José Saramago – Small memories, big love. Saramago’s stories from his childhood are endearing.
  • Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot – Time. Art. Humanity. My best read for this year.
  • Harry Potter 1, 2, and 3 by J. K. Rowling – I’ve predicted this. I just didn’t find the opportunity.
  • How Fiction Works by James Wood – Now I keep thinking about the authorial voice and I think I’m getting a pretty good grasp on it. And yes, all those books referenced makes me want to read them soon.

The Honorable Mentions

  • The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness – Would you choose Your Mum’s Lullabye or The Billboard Top 1?
  • This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz – A guide for the cheating heart.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – A literary feast for the young at heart.
  • Ulverton by Adam Thorpe – A challenging and haunting read about an uncommon character: the town of Ulverton.
  • Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis – A classic tale of jealousy that seems like it was recently written.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – My great expectations were met.
  • Steps by Jerzy Kosinski – Disturbing scenes of violent and dark sex.
  • The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro – A masterful collection from this year’s Nobel laureate in Literature.
  • The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster – Of books, writers, writing, spying, and questions on reality.
  • The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing – A keen observation on the racial divide and tension in apartheid South Africa.

The Worst

  • The Tin Drum by Günter Grass – I recognize Grass’s stylistic prose, but anything overdone is not fun.
  • Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan – The pretentious characters didn’t help me in trying to appreciate the suspense/thriller/detective genre.
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – A homophobic misogynist is unlikeable enough. Entangle him in ugly prose and you’ll hurl this outside the window. Coincidentally, it belongs to the same genre as the book above. And yes, this is my worst read for this year.

Recommended Rereads

  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

There you have it. Cheers to all the books that I’ll be encountering in 2014. Happy New Year!

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16 Comments

  1. Hunger is one of my best reads this year so I’m taking note of Mysteries the next time I’m on a book hunt. :)

    And The Tin Drum. Remember you gave me a copy? I’m a bit hesitant reading it because it’s a tome. And now your review. Haha.

    Cheers to 2014, Angus! Hope to see you again! :)

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    • Yes! I don’t mind if you don’t read it, but you may give it a try. It has an interesting protagonist. It’s just that there are so many things going on. Happy Holidays!

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    • Also, because of your list, I’m thinking of reading some for next year. I’m really interested in McEwan, Barnes, de Assis, and Thorpe. :)

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    • Thorpe is a greatly overlooked writer. I only ordered Ulverton because of a review that I found in The Guardian (an interest in his works resurfaced due to his early addition in Vintage’s Contemporary Classics). I’m also looking at reading more Barnes. So many books! :)

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  2. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair is the favorite of teary-eyed lovers. You might also like another of his love poetry collection, The Captain’s Verses, which features more aggressive and seductive poems.

    I liked The New York Trilogy, the only Auster I found to my taste. I also liked Great Expectations, which looking back I found more manageable to the only other Dickens I read, David Copperfield, because of its shorter length.

    I share your frustration with Smaller and Smaller Circles, considering all the hype about its being one of the few Filipino mystery novels.

    Hope I can read Laxness and Machado de Assis soon. The stuff you rave about here seem very good. Here’s for a more pleasurable reading year for you and your readers!

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    • That’s the first Auster that I read also. A friend recommends Man in the Dark. I’ll be checking that out as well as your recos. Happy New Year!

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  3. EEEEP. I remember your dislike for Smaller and Smaller Circles, hehehe. My sole worst read for the year is also a local book, but I’d pick Smaller over it any day. :))

    And I hope to read Independent People this year already!

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    • It’s a quite a long book but it’s really worth it. I think you will enjoy it because the characters like having discussions while drinking coffee, hahaha! :)

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  4. Wow. Harry Potter is on your list O.o Haha! Finish that series na. And Yay for The History of Love! <3

    Dumadami na ang common books natin ah? ;)

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